The recent Strange Fire conference has been the talk of the Christian blogosphere, so I didn’t want to comment on it. However, after listening to Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Sam Waldron debate the issue of whether or not the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, I found myself very frustrated with what seems to be a fashionable cop-out in debates on various theological subjects.
To put the matter simply: There are many who foolishly assert that a deductive argument from Scripture (i.e. an argument that deduces necessary consequences from Scriptural propositions) is not a sound approach to arguing one’s position. This is foolish for multiple reasons, a few of which I am going to explain in this post.
1. Jesus Used Deduction to Prove Theological Truths: A very clear example of this can be found in Matthew 22:23-33, where our Lord, the Logic of God, deductively infers life after physical death from the proposition spoken by God, viz. “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
But also consider John’s numerous accounts of our Lord’s use of deductive reasoning. In John 8:38-47, where He makes the following three deductive arguments.
I. MP: If Abraham were your father, you would be doing the works he did.
Mp: You are not doing the works Abraham did.
C: Therefore, you are not children of Abraham.
II. MP: If God were your father, you would love Me.
Mp: You do not love Me.
C: Therefore, God is not your father.
III.MP: Whoever is of God hears the Words of God.
Mp: You do not hear the Words of God.
C: Therefore, you are not of God.
This string of deductions emphasizes just how foolish it is to criticize theologians who validly deduce their position from the propositions of Scripture. Christ employed deductive inference to prove that the Pharisees were of their father the devil. The three arguments work in unison, further strengthening His judgment upon them. They neither do the works of Abraham, the works of God (i.e. loving the Son), nor hear the Words of God – they are, therefore, not of God. And those who are not of God are of the devil. Therefore, the Pharisees are of the devil.
2. Paul Used Deduction to Prove Theological Truths:
This is evident from Paul’s argument in 1st Corinthians 15:12-18, which is known as a Sorites argument. Essentially, the argument is a deductive chain of necessary inferences. The argument:
a. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
b. If Christ has not been raised, our preaching and your faith are in vain.
c. If our preaching is in vain, then we are liars.
d. If the apostles are liars, then you are still in your sins.
d1. If the apostles are liars, then the dead have perished.
The chain of inferences cannot be broken. Apparently, Paul and our Lord did not get the memo from these men who think that deductive inference from Scriptural propositions is not a proper way of coming to theological conclusions. And here is the problem, if we take Dr. Michael Brown’s position seriously we end up asserting the following foolishness:
1. Anyone who deduces from Scriptural propositions is doing theology incorrectly.
2. Jesus deduces from Scriptural propositions.
3. Therefore, Jesus is doing theology wrong.
Don’t want to affirm that? Then stop saying that deductive inference is not a proper tool of studying Scripture! Look at it this way:
1. Anyone who affirms theology deduced from Scriptural propositions is mistaken.
2. The Holy Spirit affirms theology deduced from Scriptural propositions.
3. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is mistaken?
See the problem? It is irresponsible thinking that leads men to say that deductively inferred theology is invalid or unsound. God is gracious to us in correcting our thinking, even in a matter as serious as theological methodology. However, this doesn’t mean that we should condone irresponsible thinking and pretend as if logical conclusions can just be ignored out of existence.
If Christ says that only His sheep hear His voice, then the Arminian cannot break the Scripture and say that those who do not hear Christ’s voice could do so but choose not to. No. It is simply never going to be the case that the non-sheep will behave like sheep and hear the voice of the Shepherd. To even suggest so, is to speak irrationally.
But here is another problem.
If the whole of Scripture is Truth, and Truth is not self-contradictory, then a soundly deduced theological position cannot ever contradict explicit teaching in Scripture. If someone deduces a theological position from Scripture that contradicts explicit teaching in Scripture, then (a.)his supporting premises are unsound, (b.)his argument is invalid, or (c.)his premises are unsound and his argument is invalid. Now, it is the case that the whole of Scripture is Truth; consequently, Scripture contains absolutely no contradictions; therefore, no soundly drawn inferences from the explicit teachings of Scripture can ever contradict the explicit teachings of Scripture.
To deny deductively drawn inferences from explicit Scriptural propositions is to, unwittingly perhaps, identify Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures as being in error. Of course, one could escape such blasphemy by refusing, again, to draw the necessary inferences from their explicit rejection of deduction. But if they did that, then they could never affirm that because (1.)anyone who infers theological teaching from explicit teaching is in error, and that (2.)person X infers theological teaching from explicit teaching, (2.)is, therefore, in error.
It is unscriptural to belittle the use of deduction.
Soli Deo Gloria